Wolfram Alpha review

It’s been no less than one of the most hyped launches in recent tech history. We check out search engine Wolfram Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha
IT PRO Innovation Award

However, it only takes a couple of minutes of using the new arrival to make it apparent that it's really something quite different, and that comparisons to Google are wide of the mark.

Marathon not a sprint

Wolfram Alpha describes itself as a computational search engine'. In the words of Dr Stephen Wolfram, the mastermind behind it, it looks set to make all of the world's knowledge "computable and accessible to everyone". That's a pretty tall order by anyone's standard so it's no surprise that Dr Wolfram reckons it'll be a long term' project.

What Wolfram Alpha has at its fingertips is more than 10 trillion pieces of data, more than 50,000 types of algorithms and computing models, and a computing cluster of 10,000 x86 processors, with which to work its magic.

There are essentially three parts to the process. First it to get hold of all that data, and store it in a large, fast database. To do anything useful with that data, the system employs something called, [a href="http://www.wolfram.com/products/mathematica/index.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"]Mathematica[/a], a computational modelling system that Wolfram Research has been working on for 20 years. This is the part that does the clever stuff, through smart organisation of the data and application of the algorithms.

The third piece of the puzzle is the natural language interpreter that takes human enquiries and turns them into something that Wolfram Alpha can understand the bit that is displayed as the input interpretation' box after you search.

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